Mauna Kea Access Road Reopened

Mauna Kea Access Road Reopened

MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The road up to Mauna Kea is open.  Nineteen days after it was shut down during a clash over the Thirty Meter Telescope -- the University of Hawaii is allowing 4-by-4 vehicles on the summit road, but there is still much uncertainty.

You might have thought the reopening of the road would coincide with the rules approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources Friday.  Those rules would limit overnight access on the road between 10 pm and 4 am.   They would also prohibit the use of camping equipment.  However those rules are still pending.   So while access for now is unlimited...nobody is happy.

"We wanted to get the road open as soon as possible and we were able to do that by at least limiting 2-wheel drive vehicles" said UH Spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.

But while the flow of traffic up the mountain has resumed what isn't flowing are the water or sewer lines at the Halepohaku visitors center.  Which means anyone who has to go...has to go six miles back down the mountain.

"It means commercial tours going to the summit have a four hour gap between restrooms," voiced Pat White, owner of Mauna Kea Summit Adventures.

For 32 years White's been taking tourists to star gaze at the mountain top.  White planned on taking tourists up Mauna Kea right away...right after he paid his operators fees.  Those fees, White says, pay for water lines and restrooms.

"So they're going to collect 14-hundred dollars in user fees from the commercial tour companies, but they're not going to deliver us any water or bathrooms," said White.   "The reason the restrooms are closed of course is to make it inconvenient for the guardians."

Mauna Kea activists agree.

"It's clear they're going after us, the protectors, trying to make our protection efforts of Mauna kea more difficult than they already are," says Aloha Aina activist Kaho'okahi Kanuha.

Protectors of Mauna Kea fear the lack of adequate restrooms will contribute to the desecration of the mountain.

"We will not allow any of these silly rule changes or irresponsible rule changes effect our protection of Mauna Kea," said Kanuha.

So while the road is open for now neither tour operators nor activists believe it'll last long.  Those road access rules passed Friday by the BLNR are pending Governor David Ige's signature.   If the Governor gives his blessing, as is expected, signs would first need to be posted on the mountain before the rules can be enforced.